Now that SecDef thinks Israeli Occupation is Apartheid, will the Lobby Blackballing Fail?

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

The interview of Gen. James Mattis by Wolf Blitzer at Aspen in 2013, in which the recently-retired former CENTCOM commander spoke freely on Middle East policy, has come back to haunt him now that Donald Trump has put him forward as the next Secretary of Defense. At a time when the US has ground troops in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan, however, it is not his position on those conflicts that is controversial. It is his remarks on Secretary of State John Kerry’s attempts at peace talks between Israel and Palestine . Alternet quoted him as saying:

“So we’ve got to work on [peace talks] with a sense of urgency. I paid a military security price every day as a commander of CENTCOM because the Americans were seen as biased in support of Israel, and [because of this] moderate Arabs couldn’t be with us because they couldn’t publicly support those who don’t show respect for Arab Palestinians.”

Everybody involved in US foreign policy and security knows that aggressive Israeli colonization of the Palestinian West Bank and siege of Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip is a major cause of terrorism against the United States, since Washington is blamed for it, and is a major security problem because it makes the US a pariah in the Muslim world. One of the reasons Usama Bin Laden gave for attacking the US was the Israeli mistreatment of stateless Palestinians:

“‘ Third, if the Americans’ aims behind these wars are religious and economic, the aim is also to serve the Jews’ petty state and divert attention from its occupation of Jerusalem and murder of Muslims there. The best proof of this is their eagerness to destroy Iraq, the strongest neighboring Arab state, and their endeavor to fragment all the states of the region such as Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Sudan into paper statelets and through their disunion and weakness to guarantee Israel’s survival and the continuation of the brutal crusade occupation of the Peninsula. ‘

As I’ve said before, if it were a matter of taking a hit to defend Israel on its people’s right to live in safety, then the US will always step up. But to take a hit to defend Israeli wanton war crimes and disregard of international law is unacceptable.

In his Aspen interview in 2013, Mattis went on to use the A word:

“I’ll tell you, the current situation is unsustainable … We’ve got to find a way to make work the two-state solution that both Democrat and Republican administrations have supported, and the chances are starting to ebb because of the settlements. For example, if I’m Jerusalem and I put 500 Jewish settlers to the east and there’s ten-thousand Arabs already there, and if we draw the border to include them, either [Israel] ceases to be a Jewish state or you say the Arabs don’t get to vote — apartheid. That didn’t work too well the last time I saw that practiced in a country.”

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Jimmy Carter was treated shamefully by Alan Dershowitz and Brandeis University and the entire Israel-Lobby Establishment for voicing precisely the same warning, and was excluded by their pressure from speaking at the Obama Democratic National Conventions. Watchlists have been made of academics who dare critize Israeli squatting on Palestinian-owned land.

And let us remember how poor Chuck Hagel was treated, a distinguished Vietnam War vet with two purple hearts and a senator, during the hearing to confirm him as Secretary of Defense, at the behest of Neocon chickenhawks:

“Ah, and then there is Lindsey Graham, the Red Queen of the Senate (who is the essence of the pedantic governess and asks through-the-looking-glass questions like: “Divide a loaf by a knife: what’s the answer to that?”). . .

Then the Red Queen went after Hagel for having said that the “Jewish lobby” intimidates people. He demanded, “Name one person here who’s been intimidated by the Jewish lobby . . . Name one dumb thing we’ve been goaded into doing due to pressure by the Israeli or Jewish lobby.”

Hagel said he didn’t have anyone in mind.

The irony, of course, is that Graham is himself part of the Israel lobby, and there he was intimidating Hagel for complaining about having been intimidated!

All the congressmen and senators know that the Israel lobby intimidates them or tries to, on a daily basis. Ernst Hollings complained, “you can’t have an Israeli policy other than what AIPAC gives you around here.” AIPAC is the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the de facto foreign agent of the Israeli government in the United States, which gets away with not having to register as such because it has bought off or intimidated Congress.

So let’s see if Senator Graham treats Gen. Mattis the same way (I wouldn’t advise it; he is called “Mad Dog” for a reason), or whether the Israel lobbies will just have to swallow this defeat.

So can the sensible observers of the Middle East now be invited to dinner again and the Israel-Lobby blackballing of them be lifted?

By the way, the rest of Mattis’s interview in 2013 was likewise informed and usually sensible. He was against getting involved in Syria, and warned that military action couldn’t resolve the issue of Iran’s nuclear enrichment program.

CENTCOM Review: Turmoil in the Mideast and Southwest Asia

28 Responses

  1. General Mattis’s remark about the Israeli apartheid might be controversial, but there is no doubt about his staunch support for the rightwing Israeli government and his strong denunciation of the groups such as Hezbollah who have fought against Israel’s invasions in Lebanon. His frequent comments about the Persian Gulf “allies” (namely a bunch of medieval hereditary sheikhs) and his enormous admiration for General al-Sisi and for the brutal military coup in Egypt are not very reassuring.

    Many Iranians sarcastically referred to President Ahmadinezhad’s first government as the “government of the barracks” because it included a few retired revolutionary guards commanders. It seems that the new US Administration can also be increasingly described as an “administration of the barracks and the billionaires’ club”.

    General Mattis’s views about Iran also sound extremely belligerent, and although he does not advocate an outright invasion he seems to support all efforts at a regime change:
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    Apart from his interview with Wolf Blitzer, his long presentation on the Middle East at the Center for Strategic and International Studies last April was entirely devoted to Iran’s alleged misdeeds and how to counter them:
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    It seems that both Iran and the region and consequently the whole world must be alarmed about what is in store, despite all the President-elect’s remarks about wasteful wars in the Middle East and his assurances that he wants to be friends with everybody.

    • To which can be added that during the campaign Trump came out forcefully in favor of Likud policies and Sheldon Adelson, as staunch a supporter of right wing Israeli policies as anyone, is still a major force in the GOP and gave several millions to Trump. I suspect Trump picked Mattis because he is in favor of tough anti-Iran policies, not because of what he said in 2013 about Israel.

    • “….strong denunciation of the groups such as Hezbollah..”

      Hezbollah, although fighting ISIS to some extent, is inimical to U.S. interests.

      The Israeli government has correctly pointed out that Hezbollah benefits from the international opium trade due to its territory on the Mediterranean Sea, by extension also benefitting the Taliban as 87% of all opium is cultivated in Afghanistan, with the Taliban raking in a percentage of profits from farmers occupying land under that militia’s control. A significant share of this opium passing through Lebanon finds its way to America – thus IDF officials have stressed to the U.S. government that it should join Israel in eradicating Hezbollah.

      Hezbollah has long been designated by the U.S. State Department as a foreign terror organization and has been responsible in the past for deadly attacks in Europe and Latin America.

      Hezbollah went into the Second Lebanon War with 12,000 unguided rockets and shot 4,000 into Israel, killing a total of 165 Israelis during that conflict and shutting down northern Israel for a month -causing 2 million Israelis to hide in bomb shelters. Today, Hezbollah’s arsenal has, according to some estimates, as many as 180,000 missiles – including some with guidance capabilities. The IDF has estimated that a war against Hezbollah would today result in a projected daily death toll of tens, if not hundreds of Israelis.

      That said, Hezbollah has brought stability to south Lebanon since that devastating 2006 war by being a credible deterrent to IDF aggression. It has availed itself of the electoral processes and has seats in the Lebanese parliament and cabinet. It has formed an alliance with Michel Aoun, a Christian politician, and has helped in maintaining south Lebanon stable politically while being perceived by Lebanese Shia as an effective advocate of their interests.

      Members of the U.S. intelligence community have perceived Hezbollah as a western bastion of Iran’s imperialistic ambitions and a serious threat to Israel’s security. In fact, Iran does supply weapons and training to Hezbollah and has done so over the years; Iran’s Revolutionary Guard helped direct Hezbollah in the Second Lebanon War and manned missile batteries that took advantage of deficiencies in IDF air defenses.

      The U.S. has correctly perceived Hezbollah as a threat in its region – while ignoring Hezbollah’s positive contributions to the internal stability and territorial integrity of Lebanon.

      • Iran does NOT have “imperialistic ambitions.”

        What Iran has, is a healthy distrust of the USA and Israel which are both EXTREMELY BELLIGERENT toward Iran. Iran has been carefully designing deadly anti-invasion defenses for over 30 years because USA and Israeli belligerence.

        Israel does not like Iran because Iran is sufficiently powerful enough, even without any nuclear weapons, to tell Israel to “go suck on a lemon.” Why do you think Israel has not attacked Iran?

        It is because the IDF whacked the politicians up side the head and told them Israel would get its head handed to it in humiliating defeat. Why do you think the USA has not attacked Iran?

        It is because the USA intelligence community KNOWS how powerful Iran is and the USA military has not been able to come up with a war scenario where the USA does not get humiliated and defeated. All of the war simulations so far have the USA being terribly defeated.

        There are a bunch of very bruised egos in Israel and USA BUT Iran has NO “imperialistic ambitions.”

        What Iran has is successful defiance of the USA and Israel which makes other Muslim nations jealous and fearful of their own populations (think the Saudis).

        In the real world, the USA, Israel and the Saudis are the “bad guys” not Iran.

        • Iran is not conventionally powerful. Its military budget is between Norway’s and Singapore’s. Its vaunted intervention in Syria consists of 2,000 IRGC commandos, some of them Shanghai’ed Afghans. But Iran has enormous soft power, from Shiites in the region and also from Sunnis who are anti-imperialist. Stirring all those people up is a risk.

      • You have been drinking Israeli Kool-Aid concerning Hezbollah. There has been no proof that Hezbollah was behind any of the bombings in South America or Europe, only Israel’s allegations. Hezbollah is hated by Israel because it is the only Arab entity that has twice kicked Israel’s As* in Lebanon. And what is wrong if Iran supplies weapons and training to Hezbollah? The US supplies weapons and training to Israel and Israel is the world’s most dangerous terrorist country. The US also supplies weapons and training to Saudi Arabia and those weapons end up in the hands of ISIS, Al-Qaeda, and Al-Nusra front.

        • “….[t]here has been no proof that Hezbollah was behind any of the bombings in South America or Europe, only Israel’s allegations…”

          In fact, ample proof does exist.

          The March of 1992 Israeli Embassy bombing in Argentina occurred one month following the Israeli assassination of the Hezbollah secretary-general. Islamic Jihad Organization (IJO) claimed responsibility. IJO has been described by experts as a front for Hezbollah. Former CIA official Robert Baer has indicated that IJO is operated jointly by a committee of Hezbollah and Iranian intelligence. IJO afterward released film footage of the explosion to confirm their claim of responsibility.

          The Argentine government issued an arrest warrant against Hezbollah intelligence chief Imad Mugineyeh in 1999 over his alleged complicity in the 1992 Israeli Embassy bombing – as well as the 1994 AMIA (Jewish center) bombing.

          The Argentine prosecutor in the AMIA case was killed, but that case was re-opened in 2015; the focus of the investigation is Iranian complicity in that bombing. NSA intercepts purportedly reveal that Iran had foreknowledge of the attack, however the Argentine government has been, to a certain extent, reluctant to pursue the angle of Iranian involvement, for the reason that Iran and Argentina have been seeking closer diplomatic and economic ties.

          Here are some links:

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          “And what is wrong if Iran supplies weapons and training to Hezbollah?”

          As part of the cease-fire agreement that ended the Second Lebanon War in 2006, Hezbollah agreed not to import arms via Syria as it had been doing. This provision has obviously been breached by Hezbollah and Israel has bombed, via air, the Syrian supply routes where missile shipments have been occurring to intercept and destroy such war materiel.

        • They can’t see it, MEexpert.
          The US & Israel (ref. Mark K below too) think they have a legitimate monopoly on interference in the affairs of others, right down to assassinations!
          Heaven for forbid anyone else might take a leaf out of their special book…
          Another special book they both know well talks of “motes in eyes.”

      • I am by no means a supporter of Hezbollah or for that matter of the Iranian government, and I do not have any clear information about who was really behind the terrorist bombings in Argentina, although there are many contradictory accounts about what happened. In fact, I believe that the use of religion for political purposes has been the main curse of the Middle East during the past few decades, and until the region learns to move beyond fanatical religious beliefs and put an end to sectarian and religious wars, whether between the Muslims and the Jews or between the Shi’is and the Sunnis, the region will not find peace.

        However, what annoys me is the denunciation of one side for these awful happenings and exonerating the other side. The bombings in Argentina have been blamed on Hezbollah, on the Islamic Jihad, and by extension on Iran. According to the prosecution’s claims in 2006, Iran had been implicated in the terrorist attacks because Buenos Aires had decided to suspend a contract for nuclear technology transfer to Tehran. That claim was manifestly false, because the contract was never terminated, and Iran and Argentina were negotiating on restoration of full cooperation on all agreements when the bombing occurred.

        Mark Koroi who clearly has made a lot of research on the subject writes: “The March of 1992 Israeli Embassy bombing in Argentina occurred one month following the Israeli assassination of the Hezbollah secretary-general. Islamic Jihad Organization (IJO) claimed responsibility.” Assuming that this claim is correct, and I have no wish to contradict it, while one correctly condemns the terrible terrorist attack on the Embassy and the AMIA bombing, one cannot dismiss the Israeli assassination of the Hezbollah secretary-general as an insignificant issue. On 16 February 1992, Israeli Apache helicopters fired missiles at the motorcade of Abbas al Moussawi, the Hezbollah leader, killing him, his wife, his five-year-old son, and four others. Certainly that act too merits condemnation.

        Earlier on 8 March 1985, allegedly the Israelis and the CIA carried out a massive explosion at the residence of Sheikh Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah, the leading Shi’ite cleric in Lebanon, destroying the 7-story apartment building and a cinema, killing 80 people and wounding 256. Most of the dead were girls and women who were leaving a mosque after Friday prayers. The ferocity of the blast was such that it “burned babies in their beds”. Fadlallah who survived the attack was accused of being the spiritual leader of Hezbollah, a status that both he and Hezbollah denied. That bombing too was a terrorist act and deserves condemnation.

        This culture of tit-for-tat or the Jewish and Islamic concept of Qisas or retribution must give way to forgiveness and reconciliation or at least to political agreements. As Gandhi said if we take the concept of an eye for an eye to its logical conclusion, everybody in the world will be blind.

  2. There needs a two state solution in order to reduce the ‘military security price’ CENTCOM pays daily for US obeisance to Israel. How comforting for the Palestinians. The General didn’t appear to have much of a world view in those days. Do you suppose it can have broadened in retirement?

    • There is ZERO possibility of a two-state solution any more.

      For there to be a two-state solution, there would need to be enough contiguous, fertile, usable land available for the state of Palestine to survive, let alone thrive. As of today, it is physically IMPOSSIBLE to do that unless Israel is willing to FORCIBLY move almost a million Jewish people, which will NOT happen. Israel has almost a million Jewish people settled throughout the entire area that would be needed for Palestine.

      Israel has painted itself into an apartheid corner with their foolish settlement project.

      It appears that the Israelis thought they could pull the same ethnic cleansing stunt the European invaders did in North America, but they were 400 years too late. The locals learned a lot from the American experiment. The Israelis also “forgot ” what happened to the many previous European invasions of the middle east (or they arrogantly thought they would succeed where millions of others failed).

      So now Israel has an untenable situation that they can get out of, without MAJOR pain for them.

      Long term there are ONLY two possible scenarios:

      – Apartheid with “moderate” levels of killing on both sides almost continuously. This is extremely unstable so it will eventually end with Israel being defeated.

      – BI-national state with everyone equal. That is a Muslim state with a very large Jewish population (less than 50% though).

      The Israeli have screwed themselves and will have a bad future no matter what they do.

      I have a question for all those still talking about a two-state solution – can’t you do the math? Can’t you read a map? When has a group of humans ever given up power without a fight?

  3. This is a remarkable piece of news. If Mattis still holds to the views he had in 2013 and if these views prevail in the Trump administration then there might be a 180 degree turnaround of Middle Eastern policies.

    • Mattis’ most important task will be to allay the Israel Lobby that he is aligned with their interests.

      Recall Admiral Bobby Inman, the distinguished former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency and deputy director of the CIA who had expressed his view did not trust Israel.

      After his nomination by President Clinton as defense secretary, Inman received blistering criticism by pro-Israeli interests, led by columnist William Safire, and his nomination was doomed. The Inman nomination set a precedent that cheerfully expressing pro-Israel sentiments is crucial to a nominee to that seat in the Cabinet.

  4. Everybody involved in US foreign policy and security knows that aggressive Israeli colonization of the Palestinian West Bank and siege of Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip is a major cause of terrorism against the United States,…

    But, unfortunately, not “everybody involved in US foreign policy and security” has drawn the right and just conclusions.

  5. And let us remember how poor Chuck Hagel was treated, a distinguished Vietnam War vet with two purple hearts and a senator, during the hearing to confirm him as Secretary of Defense, at the behest of Neocon chickenhawks …

    The abuse John McCain and Lindsey Graham threw at Chuck Hagel was utterly repugnant and contemptible, but Hagel also was at fault. He should have told both of these wretched creatures to go “bleep” themselves.

  6. Mattis said in April 2016 that Iran is “the single most enduring threat to stability and peace in the Middle East.” Flynn and Pompeo are also Iran hawks. The ZOA opposes Mattis, but the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs supports him.

  7. Mathis wasn’t the only senior military person who dared to speak to this obvious truth, as military people who pay the price have to deal objectively with such cold, bloody realities. Seems to me David Petraeus said something very similar in a similarly matter of fact way.

    It will be very telling whether these two putative leaders-of-men, along with their Commander-In-Chief, are going to be ready to go against this particular power, or whether they will all be brought to heel.

    If these three people cannot stand up to the Lobby, they will have shown themselves as the spineless creatures they really are, effectively deferring their judgement and the best interests of the US to the desires of another country and/or its agents.

    A very fine case could be made that Israel and its agents operating here, directly or indirectly, represent the single biggest danger to US national security this country has.

  8. Trump has nominated or is considering at least three outspoken Iranophobes for military, national security and intelligence leadership.
    “The Trumpmen of the Apocalypse”?

  9. The guy’s a quintessential warrior and has the views one would expect except for the criticism of Israel and AIPAC. It’s a strange world. These fertile fields, abandoned by Democrats being plowed by Trump.
    Just as a fantasy, what if Trump brings jobs and ends the wars? It might be nuts but what if? Well Democrats would be toast as a party wouldn’t they?
    How silly, we’re talking about Trump.

  10. “…and warned that military action couldn’t resolve the issue of Iran’s nuclear enrichment program.”

    And yet, the MSM keeps reporting that Mattis was relieved of his command during the Obama administration because of his “hard line” stance on Iraq.

    So which is it?
    He’s a pragmatist, or a hawk on Iran, or both?


  11. wow – i am a OCS 1st LT combat infantryman 1967-1968 – airborne ranger special forces LRP – mattis is a marine whereas flynn is army – a huge difference – marines charge the hill on command – army lrps recon before charging the hill – charging a hill is needless when you surround the hill –

  12. I think Mattis’ views are representative of a big bloc in the military that thinks about the Middle East in terms of US ability to project power without becoming bogged down in fighting. They want a return to the Nixon Doctrine of building up proxies and realize that most of the plausible proxies keep the US at an arm’s length because of America’s deep support for an Israel that refuses to negotiate seriously with the Palestinians.

    Of course Trump’s national security advisor, Michael Flynn, represents the other bloc in the military, of true believer Christian evangelicals who think the US is in a war with Islamic fundamentalism/terrorism and therefore must stand with Netanyahu.

    At present the weight of the nationals security establishment is closer to Mattis than Flynn, and probably Trump doesn’t give a rat’s ass one way or the other. Of course, many in the Republican establishment are closer to Flynn’s views than Mattis’. The choice for Secretary of state will be a first indication of which way the new Administration will lean.

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